Journal Article

Research on the Cost Effectiveness of Early Educational Intervention

Implications for Research and Policy

By Barnett, W. S. & Escobar, C. M. (1989).

In the last decade, the “cost effectiveness” of early educational intervention has become a familiar argument for the expansion of such services to young children who are handicapped or living in poverty. Indeed, the claim is often broadened to support public provision of universal early childhood programs. At least two reasons are apparent for the popularity of the cost-effectiveness argument: (a) the commonsense appeal of early intervention as an investment in the future, and (b) the positive public response to programs that work and are fiscally responsible. One major purpose of this paper is to provide the information needed to evaluate the cost-effectiveness arguments for early educational intervention. The other major purpose is to introduce psychologists to the methods of cost-effectiveness research so that they may be better equipped to evaluate, and participate in, cost-effectiveness studies. Thus, the core of this paper is a critical review of empirical research on the cost effectiveness of early educational intervention which serves both purposes.  A context is provided for the review by the first two sections of the paper which discuss the broader empirical literature on early educational intervention and define economic concepts.  In a final section, we offer our conclusions regarding interpretation of the research and recommendations for further research.

View Article

The Authors

W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development.